Explore expert tips and resources to be more confident in your next interview.
In this guide, Mock Questions shows you how to optimize your time when you have a short runway to prepare for a last-minute interview. We give you 4 steps to maximize your time. We also provide a sample schedule you can follow to stay on track. You don't have a lot of time, so let's get to it!
CONGRATS! YOU’VE BOOKED A LAST-MINUTE INTERVIEW. NOW WHAT?
When preparing for a job interview, we suggest spending at least 3 hours learning about the hiring company and researching the opportunity. In addition to this, it’s essential to spend a few hours practicing your interview answers and tailoring them to the hiring company.
All in all, a well-prepared candidate will often spend up to a dozen hours preparing for one job interview. This commitment will vary depending on the job title, the industry, and how well prepared you are for a career change.
Some recruiters and hiring managers will invite you for a job interview at the last minute. In these instances, you won’t always have a dozen hours of preparation time to give. If this is the case for you, here are some steps to get you on the right track!
STEP #1: RESEARCH THE COMPANY
Begin preparing for your interview by getting to know the hiring company. Your research should go far deeper than the home page of the company’s website.
First, review the company’s entire website and immerse yourself in the following:
Next, review the company on LinkedIn and any other social media platform to get an idea of its online persona. Spend your time on the platform that the hiring company prioritizes. For instance, if the company tweets every day, and their last Instagram post was two months ago, spend your time on their Twitter profile. Observe how they engage with the public on social and familiarize yourself with the company’s tone.
Last, look for your interviewers' profiles on LinkedIn. When you have some context on the background of the decision-makers, it can help you feel more at ease in your interview. You can tailor some of your interview answers to speak to their experiences and interests when appropriate. Warning - don't be creepy about it! You can mention that you went to the same college, but not that you both have dogs named Rex.
*QUICK TIP: While you are performing this research, be sure to jot down brief notes that you can review before you go into your interview. Even better, dictate these notes to yourself on your smartphone. Then, listen to the recording while you are getting ready and commuting to your interview.
STEP #2: REVIEW THE POSITION DESCRIPTION
Beyond a list of to-do’s and responsibilities, a job description will tell you a lot about the hiring company’s needs. When you comb through the job description, take the time to read between the lines and uncover any problems that you should be ready to solve when hired.
A hiring company will give preference to the candidate who portrays themselves as a problem solver. What challenges is the company facing, and how will you soothe these once they hire you?
Here is a sample from an Account Manager job posting. Underlined are sentences and phrases spotlighting the company’s needs and challenges:
We're growing fast, and we're looking for exceptional people to join us on this incredible journey.
About the Team
The Account Management team brings additional value and services to our existing clients.
As an Account Manager, you'll take on value-driven conversations with clients and support strategic campaigns as a part of our "startup within a startup” environment.
It’s clear, after analyzing this job posting, that the hiring company is growing quickly. They need to find an agile problem solver who loves processes and understands the psychology behind effective selling. The company wants an entrepreneurial-minded person who understands the unique challenges of a fast-growth startup environment.
Now that you have identified the company’s primary pain points and specific challenges, you know where to focus your interview prep time. It's most likely that your interview will center around how you can meet these particular challenges.
*QUICK TIP: Be ready to use similar language in your job interview as expressed in the job description. In the example above, you would want to refer to startup within a startup, improving processes, entrepreneurial mindset, or agile thinking during your interview. By using company-specific terms, you show that you are engaged, well-prepared, and ready to address the company’s greatest needs.
STEP #3: REVIEW YOUR RESUME
Now that you understand the company's mission and values and you have identified their most significant challenges, it's time to highlight what makes you the best person for the job.
Consider how your background, experiences, accomplishments, training, and education make you the best match.
You should know your resume pretty well; however, it's still an essential step to review your work history before attending an interview. Rather than simply reading your document aloud, spend your time reading your resume from the hiring company's perspective.
*QUICK TIP: As you comb through your resume, begin thinking about experiences from each position that you could transform into mini, engaging stories for your interview. This exercise will be beneficial for Step #4!
STEP #4: PRACTICE EXPECTED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
If you have limited time to prepare for your job interview, try tackling some questions that you are nearly guaranteed to be asked by the interviewer.
These questions are common and will act as an excellent foundation for preparedness.
General interview questions to prepare for:
Behavioral interview questions to prepare for:
We recommend responding to behavioral and situational interview questions using the STAR answer method. If you want to learn more, check out Mock Questions’ guide on mastering the STAR interview approach.
*QUICK TIP: When practicing interview questions, remember to give yourself time to prepare 2-5 questions to ask the interviewer in return. When you ask the interviewer a few insightful questions about the company and the role, your genuine enthusiasm will shine through. For ideas, check out our guide Ask the Interviewer: Questions That Are Sure to Impress and Ask the Interviewer Q&A set.
LAST-MINUTE INTERVIEW PREP: SAMPLE SCHEDULE
Use this sample schedule to optimize the limited time that you have. Set a timer for each task and concentrate on completing one step at a time.
Company Research: 1 hour
Position Description Review: 30 minutes
Resume Review: 30 minutes
Practice Questions: 2 hours
Total: 4 hours
*QUICK TIP: If you don’t have 4 consecutive hours to dedicate to your interview prep, consider dividing your time into two 2-hour prep sessions. If you find yourself with more time than you initially thought, spend additional time practicing more interview questions.
When you book a last-minute interview, it's easy to feel flustered and forget the necessary steps in your preparation process. Here are some additional ways to set yourself up for a successful interview:
There you have it! If you don’t have 12 hours to dedicate to your job interview prep, be sure to break down your time wisely. You’ve got this!
If you need more ideas for common interview questions, check out Mock Questions’ Common Interview Q&A set with 30 common interview questions and 200+ sample answers.